Monday, May 13th, 2013
Traditionally, public accounting firms focused all their recruiting activities around the “fall season.” Students were fresh.. back on campus… and their professors had prepared them for the beauty contest of the very active fall season.
I talk to many firms that still operate this way. I also talk to many firms who are just finishing-up the “spring season.” It involves just as much work and intensity from firm HR professionals, firm administrators and partners as the fall campaign.
If you are not hiring summer interns – wake-up. If you are not identifying and getting to know the students you will be talking to in the fall – wake-up. If you think that being visible on campus just in the fall is enough – wake-up.
Accounting majors at prominent universities don’t know much (if anything) about local and regional accounting firms. Read more about why and how four students were surprised to learn that they could have the resources and support they thought was only available at the national firms at a local/regional firm.
Just a few years ago (including at my former firm) we did not hire summer interns because we didn’t have anything for them to do. Now, you must find something for them to do to keep them in your hiring pipeline. Some of the best students need a summer job!
Find projects where they can help. Let them shadow the summer auditors – there is always some repetitive work they can help with on an audit. They can also shadow in the tax area – have your tax team become your tax teaching team in the summer by establishing mini seminars on tax research, state & local tax, etc.
Check-out these good ideas via HBR, Hiring an Intern? What to Do Before the Summer Starts.
- Craft your sales pitch. Even if you think your firm’s value proposition is obvious, dig deeper. Think hard about what a twenty-something is going to get out of 8 to 10 weeks of working side by side with your experienced, knowledgeable people.
- What will your intern walk away with? What skills and insights will he/she learn on the job that will shape their career path, strengthen their network or help them decide once and for all that accounting is the way to go long term (and that your firm is flexible, fun, cool and prestigious).
What do you say to interns when they arrive? Check-out my Intern Speech and modify it to fit your firm.
Picture: Picture of new CPAs at Freed Maxick CPAs Buffalo office at their celebration lunch last week. How active are you at posting to your Facebook page?
- I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
It’s mid-February. At your busy accounting firm, your interns have been working diligently for about 6 weeks now. How’s it going for them?
First of all, you have to ask them. If you are a firm leader (that means you are responsible for others…. managing partner, any partner, manager, firm administrator, HR director, etc.), I hope you are touching base with them almost every day. Use two simple questions: How’s it going? Anything you need from me?
Is it time to take them to lunch as a group? From my experience, taking the interns to lunch was one of the most enjoyable aspects of my role as a leader. I was always impressed how knowledgeable they were about world events and the business world, in general. They usually knew more about current business trends than CPA firm partners with many years experience.
I also found most of them to be very good conversationalists and great dining partners. Use the time to share some of the things firm management is planning for the rest of the year. Encourage them to ask you questions.
Another valuable thing you might learn….. in six weeks time they have all the partners (and managers) pegged. That means they can tell you each one’s idiosyncrasies and probably can do impressions of them that will make you smile…. well, they will make you laugh out loud.
Send that email today – inviting the interns to join you for lunch. And, splurge – take them to the City Club, Country Club – someplace nice. Make it special.
- A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.
Thursday, December 29th, 2011
My advice when it comes to interns is, if you can possibly use one – hire two. If you think you might need 3, hire six. Most of you know by now that hiring for the public accounting profession has evolved to hiring from your intern pool. The best and brightest almost always accept offers from the firm they interned with. The stiffest competition in hiring on campus is for the best intern candidates.
When the interns arrive, make them feel special. I often ask groups of managing partners how they felt on their first day working in public accounting. I get some very consistent answers such as: I felt dumb. I felt lost. I was clueless. I was scared.
Now that you are more experienced, keep in mind how all new hires in the CPA world feel. And remember, use positive talk. Sometimes, people in CPA firms tend to dwell on the negative. When you describe your firm and public accounting, in general, to new hires (and to anyone) don’t forget to brag it up!
In January, when new hires and interns arrive, it is a perfect time to talk about the wonderful opportunities in public accounting. As a firm leader, take the time to talk with each one privately about the wonderful world of public accounting. I suggest comparing public accounting to being a doctor – CPAs are highly trained physicians (specialists) treating patients – sometimes you are focused on preventive medicine and sometimes you are an emergency room doctor. Sometimes you even need to provide psychiatric help (like me in the picture, above).
Here’s an example of an intern speech for you to use, just insert the name of one of your all-stars.
“You know, Nate, the reality of the CPA profession and what makes it so important to you, is the fact that it is absolutely the BEST place to TRAIN for the business world. Public accounting teaches you how to think in ways that have never entered your brain before now. Being an auditor forces you to look past what is obvious. Taxes teaches you how to be cunning, creative and forces you to think proactively. You could say that working in the tax area is like planning the strategy for an important battle.
What’s more, public accounting is like the emergency room for all business owners. YOU are the DOCTOR and PATIENTS come to you when they have a painful problem. You strip them of their clothes (so to speak), see them for what they humanly are, do x-rays, CAT scans and all kinds of tests to be sure it is a thorough examination. You see into their personal life like no other person. Then you diagnose and treat them.
Also, Nate, if you keep your eyes, ears and mind open during your time with them, you will see how successful businesses are run and how true entrepreneurs think. You might also see how mistakes and poor judgment can take a business down. What a training ground!”
- The nice thing about being a celebrity is that if you bore people they think it's their fault.
Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
Back in January, I talked about a trend by the helicopter parents to place their college students into unpaid internships.
I am now reading, in today’s WSJ, that even experienced people who find themselves out of work are taking on unpaid internships just to keep current and add expertise where they have had no prior experience.
Maybe some great accountants will want a busy season, unpaid internship? Somehow, I think I am dreaming.
“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – - Mark Twain
Thursday, January 29th, 2009
Although I never observed it first-hand (I’m not quite THAT old), I bet many of the Mature Generation still at work in firms today, remembers the time of unpaid internships. Young people worked for free just to get the experience.
In the accounting profession we must now must now stage quite an extravaganza to win the best and brightest interns and pay them, what I think, is quite a hefty hourly rate.
The helicopter parents are at it again. Per yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: Some are paying for-profit companies to place their college students in internships that are mostly unpaid. Others are hiring marketing consultants to create direct-mail campaigns promoting their children’s workplace potential. Still other parents are buying internships outright in online charity auctions. Other tidbits from the article:
- For profit internship companies have sprung up during the last few years.
- They screen-out some applicants.
- They help polish resumes and arrange interviews with employers that offer internships.
- The internship company featured guarantees an internship placement or refunds the students’ fees ($5,00 to $9,500).
- Parents are paying consultants to do direct mail campaigns behalf of their children.
- Other parents are purchasing internships outright in charity auctions (an internship at a music production company sold for $12,000).
I don’t think we’ll see this in the CPA profession quite yet, but we are already seeing lots of behaviors from Millennial (Gen-Y) parents that we never expected, like accompanying their student to the job interview. Some firms already have special programs for parents of their potential new hires. Times They Are A-changin‘.…….
“Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” – - Socrates (470 BC-399 BC)
Thursday, May 29th, 2008
As you know, I am always looking for CPA firms and people in public accounting that make me say WOW.
Yesterday, after a fantastic day with Gainer, Donnelly & Desroches at their beautiful office in Houston (a firm who is determined to have an “alive and healthy” mentoring program for their team), I flew to Orange County to be with another awesome firm, Windes & McClaughry, where today we’ll talk about generational issues at their annual leadership planning retreat.
On the plane I was reading Inside Public Accounting (you should be subscribing to this one – it is a must-read for progressive CPA firm leaders…. email me if you want a copy of my 2008 recommended reading list), I read about Johnson Lambert & Co., a Raleigh NC based firm.
The firm, with MP Deborah Lambert, feels so strongly about the correlation between great networking, life-balance and the personal development track that the firm provides not only high-quality internship experiences throughout the year, but also personal golf lessons for its 30+ summer interns. The golf lessons are also offered to any staff member who is an intern mentor (sure made staff step-up).
Think about it – connections made and relationships built through golf are a key part of many CPAs success activities. Check out the JL&Co. website where there is a link to the entire article.
“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” – - Arnold Palmer
Tuesday, February 5th, 2008
There are some very special people working in your firms right now. They are young, smart, ambitious, eager to please, socially adept and fun to be around. No, I am not talking about your partners. I mean interns. I LOVE interns.
It’s now February, how do they feel about your firm? Did they have a clear understanding, before they started, as to what they would learn and experience?
If you don’t have one, take the time to develop a written description of your firm’s intern program to distribute prior to hiring and arrival. Describe what they will learn in the tax area and the assurance area. It not only enlightens interns but turns into a checklist for your coaches to be sure that the interns get a wide variety of experiences.
To check on how it’s going…. take the intern group to lunch around Valentine’s Day to show them that you love them.
“Love: a temporary insanity, curable by marriage.” – - Ambrose Bierce
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Most of you are well aware of the meaning of “suck-up” and those around you who demonstrate that trait. It can be quite entertaining to observe. But how about “sucking-down”? It means reaching out and grasping an understanding of how to do good things for the people below you in rank, authority, years of experience, etc. Follow the link to get a refresher – it’s an important skill for CPAs.
This week I am reading a manifesto by Tom Peters, Excellence. NO EXCUSES - one of his gigantic rambles that contain snip-its that can change how you relate to your employees, your work, your family and your life. Be prepared, it’s 843 pages long (just a few words on each page… easy reading). I read it as filler-reading when I have a few minutes here and there and need to be inspired.
His entry on page 36 reminded me of Kawasaki. Back in 2006, the CPA profession needed people – we had more work than we had people to perform the services. Guess what? We are back there again – everyone is looking to hire talented professionals. But it is more than that, once you hire them and train them you need to KEEP them. Being a CPA firm partner or managers isn’t about you… who can help you be more successful. It’s about how you can serve the people below you so they feel the passion for their work and their careers.
Here’s the words on Page 36 of Tom’s manifesto:
Suck “down” for success!
Make friends in “low” places.*
*It’s simple, really. “Down” is where the work is done! An Army of Fans “down below” is the greatest group of allies imaginable. If you are, say, making a sales pitch for a complex systems product, it’s true that the “VP” will eventually need to sign off. BUT … the analysis that wins or loses the battle will be done two levels “down” by a trio of young, invisible, unloved engineers. They are the ones you want on your side—find them and nurture them. (FYI: This is a … GUARANTEED … winning formula.)
As a CPA partner, how well do you know your interns? How well do you know your first and second years? How well do you know the people who work for the business owner you serve?
- Most of our conscious life will be at work. Like it or not. Waste your work life and you have effectively wasted your life.
Thursday, February 13th, 2014
I recently read a tweet by my son regarding his 5th grade musicians. “My 5th grade flutes and clarinets just exhaust me. They have so much energy and ask sooooo many questions.”
In case you don’t know or have forgotten, 5th grade is when children select their first band instrument and began learning from scratch. Of course they will be excited and have lots of questions. While my son might be exhausted, I know he’s very happy about their enthusiasm.
In January and February inside your CPA firm you have quite a few 5th graders. These are the new college graduates going through their very first busy season and your interns who “have so much energy and ask soooo many questions.
As an experienced CPA – a senior, a manager/supervisor or a partner – you might feel absolutely exhausted because of the attention theses newbies demand and need.
A band director invests in the 5th & 6th graders so that when they gradually become very proficient and reach high school age, the band director has a group of very impressive, skilled musicians in the high school marching and concert bands. All along the way, while they work very hard they also have lots of fun.
This is the same investment that CPA managers (at all levels) are making – answer your beginners’ questions with a smile, get them excited and educated about public accounting and 3 to 4 years down the road you will have an impressive, skilled, professional accounting team that works very hard and has lots of fun along the way.
Yes, it is exhausting.
- If a baseball player strikes out two times, but hits the ball on the third try every time he goes to bat, he's still a great baseball player. But hitting the mark 33 percent of the time isn't good enough for band. In band you have to hit the mark every time you step up.
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
It really is tough for smaller CPA firms to attract the best and brightest accounting graduates. Even larger local and regional firms have a tough time competing on the college campus.
That’s why it is so important to help accounting majors learn more about some of the unique, challenging, supportive and career-building opportunities open to them inside, what I call, the bread and butter firms. So many of these small to mid-size firms really do offer a culture where “life if good.”
Recruiting on the college campus has changed over the years. Your firm founders might have visited the campus in the fall (September/October) to do on-site interviews with students entering their senior year. A few of the students interviewed made the cut and were invited to the office for a more in depth interview. Official offers, for full-time positions, went out just before Thanksgiving.
These days you can speed that up to about 200 miles per hour. Now, your firm recruiter always makes sure your firm is visible in the spring before the students depart (by hosting a mixer, attending the end of year awards banquets, etc.). In September, firm representatives are ready to go early to interview 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students looking for interns for the upcoming busy season that begins in January. These interns are usually hired by the end of September or very early October – no more waiting until Thanksgiving! In mid-April when they depart, many have received an offer to work for the firm upon graduation, even if it is two years out.
Allen Bolnick of Chicago-area firm Weltman Bernfield had an idea to help his smaller firm compete and four other Chicago-area firms joined in. Unlike the usual intern programs you see in public accounting firms, this program does not expect billable hours from their interns.
This unique accounting intern program is based more on education, collaboration and cultural awareness. Read about this success story in an Accounting Today article by Danielle Lee.
- Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.